Thursday, March 28, 2013

Two For Summer: Boas Vinhas Branco and Tramontane Côtes du Roussillon

Two wines for summer: One for grilled seafood, the other for grilled sausage.

Nuno Cancela de Abreu, who heads Sociedade Boas Quintas, has made the production of high quality wines in the Dão region of Portugal his life's work. After getting an advanced degree at Montpellier (one of the French equivalents of UC Davis), he ran the Association for the Development of Viticulture of the Douro Wine Region; by 1987 he was teaching enology at the University of Trás - os - Montes and Alto Douro in Portugal. He started Boas Quintas in 1991 on his family's estate in  Mortágua, in the Viseu district of north-central Portugal. Ten years later, he ran Quinta da Alorna, a property that has been in continuous operation for nearly three centuries. He also consulted for other estates. In 2010, he left all of this to start Boas Quintas.

The Dão Region is surrounded on three sides by mountains that lessen the influence of the Atlantic, with warm summers and lots of rainfall. It is mostly planted to touriga nacional, but white grapes grow well here, too. The best is the Encruzado, which has benefited hugely from temperature-controlled fermentation, since it is prone to oxidation otherwise. According to Jancis, there were a mere 729 acres planted in 2010. This is the principal grape in Boas Vinhas Branco. The other grape—in smaller proportion, is Cerceal Branco, which adds a sense of freshness and also a dose of acidity. The grape is commonly confused with Sercial, which is used to make dry Madeira. The two are unrelated.

Boas Vinhas Branco 2011: As mentioned above, the wine is made from a blend of 70% Encruzado and 30% Cerceal Branco. On the nose, lime, green apple, a little pear skin. In the mouth, peach and pear, a very good balance of fruit, acidity, and mineralic character. It's refreshing; it has charm; it's $11.99. I'm thinking this will pair well with one of the Chef's shrimp-and-fresh tomato dishes, once the season arrives. This is going to be available starting next week, says Josh at Table Wine. This is a no-brainer for those who, like me, would like to add variety to a warm-weather diet of Grüner Veltliner, Albariño, and Pouilly-Fumé.

“Tramontane” is the name of a strong, dry, cold wind that blows into Roussillon from the north, the local equivalent of the southern Rhone's Mistral. Philippe Gard (an agricultural engineer who lives in Banyuls and consults in Bordeaux) and Andy Cook (a New Zealand winemaker/négociant who now lives in the area)  started the Tramontane project in 2008. They own a few parcels of vineyards in the region, including one near Argelès along the Mediterranean south of Perpignan, and one at St-Jean Lasseille, about ten miles inland.

Tramontane Côtes du Roussillon 2010: The wine is 100% old-vine, gobelet (bush) trained grenache, made from grapes purchased from vineyards in Tautavel. It opens with a big nose of red berries and black licorice, followed by rich red fruit with surprisingly complex spice flavors and a strong note of mineralic character. Unfiltered. No trees were harmed in the production of this wine. At $14.99, this has a ton of rustic character, and while it will never be confused with anything from Gauby or Tribouley, it manages  to offer richness of fruit without excessive weight. We drank this alongside the Chef's garlic sausage, and it was almost like being back in Collioure. Available at the Asheville Wine Market and other fine emporia where everybody seems to know I'm a sucker for this style of red.

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